There are really only two sources of energy for the world. The most obvious is the sun, energy
that comes to us through space and through the air. The other comes from deep below the
ground, energy that was in the earth when it was formed. The energy that we get from burning
wood comes from the sun, which was the source of energy that made the trees grow. Wind is
produced by uneven heating of air by the sun. Cold air is heavier than warm air. The fossil fuels:
petroleum, coal, and natural gas were placed underground millions of years ago, made from
remnants of life that has been stored there including vegetable (plants and trees) or animal life
such as dinosaurs and other creatures that died and have been stored there. This fossil energy
came almost entirely from the sun.
We do get some energy, such as nuclear energy, from basic elements such as uranium and
plutonium. In fact, all of the tiny molecules that are listed in the periodic table of the elements
are really made of energy. This energy was either in the earth when it was formed or received
from the sun since that time.
We, humans, and all other forms of life, need energy to exist. We get our basic energy by eating
food that exists because of the sun – whether it is fruit and vegetables or animals. We also take in
oxygen from the air. We also use energy for other purposes that help us enjoy our lives.
Over the centuries, we have used a lot of wood. Conveniently, English people found that they
could burn coal when they did because they had used up almost all of the trees that existed on
their island. People began to use fossil fuel.
Now we are using up coal, petroleum, and gas that has been stored in the ground. If we
continue, someday it will be all gone. We learned some time ago that using this source of energy
generates carbon dioxide, which is warming the air so much that it that will make it more
difficult for many kinds of life to continue to exist, including humans. This must stop.
Yet we do need energy. Where will it come from? The easy answer is to get the energy we need
from the sun. We can do this without contributing to the problem of climate change. We can
collect the sun’s energy by heating conductive substances, and now, by using solar panels to
change the sun’s energy into electricity. Electricity can be used to propel automobiles, trucks,
subways, and railroad locomotives. These methods do not cause climate change problems and
are renewable, unlike fossil fuel.
Of course the sun does not shine all the time. But clean energy can also be produced by
windmills, rivers and tidal water. Hydroelectric dams can store water when the sun is shining
and generate electricity when the sun is not shining.
So why do we continue to develop new sources of fossil fuel when better ways to get energy are
I suppose it is because a lot of money has been invested in obtaining fossil fuel energy even
though investors have known about the climate change problems since before 1980.
But if we don’t stop doing this, the world and its people are in a lot of trouble. The oceans are
rising rapidly. The ocean water is becoming warmer and more acidic, which is destroying its
ability to produce food. Many of the places where we have grown food on land for centuries are
becoming too dry to be able to do this. One of the places where this is happening is California,
which now has less rainfall and does not have access to enough river water and underground
water to irrigate the farmland. We can’t use salty and acidic ocean water to irrigate farmland.
Hopefully the international conference in Paris relating to Climate change this December will
change this, before it is too late. Hopefully all governments will take action to require transition
from fossil fuel energy to other sources and do so as quickly as possible, whether privately
owned fossil fuel corporations want to or not.
Last modified: March 7, 2017